Learn To Sew - Sewing Basics!

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Learning How To Sew - The Basics!
By Tina Sutherland

So you want to learn to sew but Grandma is off hang-gliding? Well, we can help with the very basics here. We'll go over some of the first steps and then give you some places to go for more information. So take a deep breath and lets get started.

Find a pattern.

This can be the most fun part! But when you are really new at this you want to choose something easy. Don't look at fancy dresses yet. You don't want to mess with sleeves, zippers or facings...no running till you can walk. Also avoid doll clothes at first, tiny things are not easier. Straight lines good, curves bad. Look for the words Fast, Easy, Jiffy or Simple To Sew.

How do you find a pattern? Well any fabric store should have several pattern books, usually from the Big Four pattern companies, Vogue, Butterick, McCall's, and Simplicity. These generally are put out seasonally, for spring/summer or fall/winter for example. If you want more choices then come back to your friendly online pattern sellers. That's where you'll find other companies and a much wider choice.

Choosing a size.

If you are going to make clothing you need to figure out what size you want. Don't go by the size you buy at the mall. You need to know your measurements. And don't try to take your own, get a friend with a tape measure and write it all down. You'll need Bust (across the fullest part), Waist ( at your beltline) and Hips ( widest part) to start. There are lots of tricks to get exact measurements and later you'll want more numbers, but these are the basics.

When you see a pattern you like compare the sizes to your numbers and pick the best match. Warning: every pattern company is different and they all change their sizing from time to time. Always check your numbers against any pattern you buy. Just because you bought a Vogue 12 last time doesn't mean you will always wear a Vogue 12. This is especially true for Vintage patterns...always check the measurements!

Now that you have a pattern envelope in your hand don't leave the store yet. You are going to need some more stuff. First is fabric. Start by looking on the back of that pattern envelope, there is usually a list of suggested fabrics. For your first projects to will want to stick with cotton or a polyester/ cotton blend. Fuzzy fabrics, fancy textures or sheers are tricky to sew, better saved till you know your machine better. You'll see the words - "with and without Nap". That refers to texture on the fabric.

Velvet has Nap, cotton usually doesn't. For now you want Without Nap. Cottons will be found in quilting section of the store, or look on the end of the "bolt" ( that's the name of the cardboard that the fabric is wound around), on one end there should be a label with the fabric content and the price per yard (36 inches). Just poke around and you'll find it. After you've found a few bolts marked Cotton you can look around the store and you'll see similar fabrics. Go find one you really like. This is important. There is no point in sewing with fabric you don't like. It doesn't have to be the most expensive stuff in the store, but it should be a color or pattern you are excited about.

The pattern envelope will tell you how much fabric you need for the project you've chosen. On the front the choices will have small numbers or letters near each model. These are the "Views". Your project will be on a chart that shows View 1, or View 2, etc.. The chart will also have the sizes listed, use it find how much fabric you need. Now, just pull that bolt out and take it over to the cutting table. The folks there can look at your pattern and help you get the right fabric and the right amount. It's usually a good idea to buy a little extra fabric...this allows for shrinkage and little mishaps.

Next look at that envelope back again. You are going to need some "Notions". That's a catch all phrase that includes all the threads, trims, buttons, zippers, snaps and other bits to finish your project. Since you are starting easy you shouldn't need much at first, but you will need thread. Pick a spool that matches the background color of your fabric, black thread for black fabric, etc. Don't worry about this to much, for the most part the thread won't show.

Resist going nuts here, there are tons of very pretty metallic and shiny threads out there, but remember unless you are sewing with decorative top-stitching the thread won't show. But you do want to get thread that has the same content as the fabric it will sew, so we want cotton or cotton/polyester blend. Check that Notions list again, do you need trim or anything else? It should be listed by View. Oh, and you are going to need some big flat space to lay all this out on. The fabric store will have these folding cardboard table toppers. They are pretty cheap and very nice to have. Now go pay and run home!

Prewash your material before you sew...wash it just like you will wash the finished project. Then you won't make a fabulous thing that later shrinks all goofy.

Lay out the tissue pattern. It will be huge, but you only need the pieces that are for your View and size. Cut the tissue pieces apart...but beware! There are weird little marks on the edges of the pattern pieces that look like arrow points, or like two arrows next to each other. They are usually called "Notches". You need these later...don't cut them off! Instead cut around them. If there are any other odd looking marks save them...when in doubt don't cut stuff off. The marks vary from one company to another, the printed instruction sheet inside the pattern will explain them. That brings us to the all important Instruction Sheet.

This piece of paper is your friend. From here on out it will give you step by step instructions on how to proceed. There will be drawings and written instructions. Read them over at first, but don't get overwhelmed, sewing is a step by step process. There will be a drawing of how to lay out your tissue pieces on the fabric. It's like a map! The fabric is often folded, look at the drawing carefully. If it says "Right Sides Together" that means the colorful, brighter side of the fabric, the Right Side, should be touching when it's is folded. (The plainer side is called the "Wrong Side".) All the symbols used on the pattern will be on the sheet. Be sure you understand the ones that explain those notches, the cutting line and be sure you figure out the one that means "Place on Fold" ... that's not a cutting line.

There are a few other terms that might be confusing. Grain Line ( or Straight of Grain") is a term that refers to the weave of the fabric. You want your finished project to lay flat or hang smoothly. If you cut the pieces out "with the grain" (vs. "against the grain") everything will lay better. The pattern pieces will show a Straight of Grain symbol, usually a double headed arrow. Just try to have that arrow point parallel to the "Selvage". Selvage is that hard edge of the fabric. It isn't meant to be included in your project. When you layout the tissue pieces don't use the selvage.

Now pin the tissue pieces to the fabric using straight pins. Place the pins so that they don't cross where you will need to cut. Use plenty of pins, you'll be glad later. Next use good sharp scissors to cut the fabric making sure you leave those notches in place.

Now you can turn to that Instruction Sheet and proceed! Just go step-by-step, reading carefully and trust your gut. If you get stuck picture the finished project in your head and see if the next step makes sense. And if you get stuck come on back...I know people who know stuff!

Tina Sutherland Owner of What-I-Found - Sewing Patterns! A wonderful collection of Vintage and Current patterns for all ages and eras. Come visit at http://www.mainstreetmallonline.com/patterns/store.php?ref=2

Article Source: ezinearticles.com


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